|Home and Garden Pesticide Disposal|
A vast array of home and garden pesticides is on the market in the UK offering quick relief from a range of potential pests. The efficacy of these chemicals depends on the fact they are toxic. They have nevertheless become widely used by the general public.
In 2001 householders purchased 4,893 tonnes of pesticide active ingredient, an increase of 14% compared with sales in 2000, and 76% compared with sales in 1998. The arsenal of chemicals available to the amateur user is smaller than that available to professional users. However, unlike farmers and local authority users, home and garden users have no access to training and with only label advice as a guide.
PAN UK is concerned about the lack of suitable facilities for disposal of home and garden pesticides. Householders often use only a portion of the pesticide product they purchase and need an adequate system for disposing of the remainder. We have recently conducted both national and local surveys that reveal the inadequacy of our current system. The results show that while between 5% and 10% take pesticide waste to a specialised facility at their local authority civic amenity site, 20% to 30% dispose of pesticides inappropriately (down the drain or in the bin), and the remainder store these chemicals indefinitely mainly in garden sheds, garages, and kitchen cupboards. This current situation is unacceptable.
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Every year ground and surface waters contain concentrations of pesticides capable of impacting on wildlife. While water companies spend millions ensuring pesticide residues are removed from our drinking water supply, the residues remain in our rivers, lakes, and groundwater.
Inappropriate disposal of home and garden pesticides down drains and in bins contributes to this problem. Pesticides disposed of down drains will directly enter the water supply. Pesticides disposed of in the bin may end up in landfill sites not licensed to accept hazardous waste. These landfill sites have fewer safeguards to prevent toxic chemicals leaching out and a fraction will inevitably enter and contaminate our ground and surface waters.
It is currently not known to what extent home and garden pesticides contribute to contamination of our environment. However, in densely populated areas, such as the Thames region, it is highly likely that use and inappropriate disposal of home and garden pesticides contribute significantly to water contamination.
'One tablespoonful of spilled pesticide concentrate could pollute the water supply of 200,000 people for a day'. (UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food)
A glimpse into the average garden shed can sometimes reveal an impressive chemical armory. In a PAN UK survey most people reported storing pesticides, with 30-40% storing pesticides they no longer use. Aware of the dangers of disposing of pesticides down drains or in bins, and often having no alternative disposal options, many people stockpile old chemicals. Some of these chemicals have long since been banned and can pose a serious threat to children, pets, and wildlife. Over 90% of human poisoning incidents reported to the National Poison Information Services occur at home.
PAN UK is calling for
• National legislation requiring separation of hazardous waste from other household waste
• Convenient and well-advertised facilities for disposal of home and garden pesticides
• Information about alternatives to chemical pest control to be made available to the general public.
For more information about this project contact Roslyn McKendry, National Project Officer at PAN UK.